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The Best Project Managers are Emotion-driven Leaders

~ By Claude Emond

Hubble telescope on a space environment with earth as background

A short while ago, Charles J. Pellerin, the author of, How NASA Builds Teams: Mission Critical Soft Skills for Scientists, Engineers, and Project Teams, came to Montreal to lead a one-day workshop based on his book. This event was organised with the sponsorship of the PMI-Montreal chapter.

This was a very enlightening day. Charles used his own personal ill-fated story, as the project director for the launch of the Hubble telescope, to get us to travel with him on his journey to the discovery of true leadership. This journey not only got him to redeem himself through an officially 'unauthorised' 60M US$ fix mission to get astronauts to repair the telescope, but also got him to better understand the root of true leadership and design a system to make it happen. This is this system he talks about in his book. This is the system he is now applying as a consultant to NASA teams with radical performance improvements, thoroughly documented, scientifically measured…and all generously and clearly explained to us for our own usage in his amazing book.

His leadership competency model is based on two continuums axes: the Emotional-Logical decision making process continuum and the Intuited-Sensed data preference continuum. Out of the reunion of those two continuums emerge four types of leaders, which are basically characterised as follows:

  • The cultivating Emotional-Intuitive leader (green): great at giving gratitude, s/he is a people-builder who cares deeply about human beings and creates strong loyalty; the ultimate coach for large very complex projects.
  • The including Emotional-Sensing leader (yellow): great at making you feel included as a part of the greatest whole, s/he is a team-builder who develops harmonious teams and can mobilise and get the most difficult people to work as a team; the ultimate marketer for large complex projects.
  • The visioning Logical-Intuitive leader (blue): mastering reality-based optimism and living through complete commitment, s/he is an idea-builder, fond of creative ideas and demanding excellence; the ultimate innovator that can lead research and early phase projects…but might get stuck there.
  • The directing Logical-Sensing leader (orange): organiser in chief, s/he is a system-builder, highly disciplined, well organised and using reliable processes; the ultimate project 'deliverer and closer' in hard times, putting the task first and meeting the objectives ruthlessly.

Charles goes on, in his book and in his workshops, explaining that the most effective project leaders are those that can lead through their emotions, the 'green' and the 'yellow' ones, because project management is all about teamwork and human relationships, all about journeying together towards a better place for all stakeholders. He also says that, although emotion-driven leaders can always compensate for less logical abilities, by finding good 'blue' and 'orange' team collaborators, the reverse is not possible. So, ultimately, in order to become a very effective project leader, one who does not have innate emotion-driven leadership will have to develop the necessary genuine 'gratifying' and 'including' behaviours to succeed, and be able to handle effectively larger, more complex project teams.

Charles has been using assessments of these leadership competencies to measure leaders' and teams' profiles and behaviours along the two continuums. He has also designed programmes to get teams in NASA and elsewhere to improve their profiles, behaviours and, subsequently, performance in delivering outstanding projects.

I wrote above that Charles Pellerin was very generous in the material he shares in his fabulous book. He is also very generous on his website, How NASA Builds Teams. If you go there and register, you'll get access to some of his presentation PowerPoints. You will also be able to make a free assessment of your individual leadership style as well as a free assessment of your team profile. And, if ever Charles gets to your town for a workshop, just go have a journey into project leadership with him. This man, innately a 'blue' Logical-Sensing guy, has succeeded his transformation into a gratifying, very including man, who will lead you to a better self and coach you to awaken the great project leader you were born to be.


Claude Emond is one of the founders and president of Qualiscope Enterprises, a project management consulting, coaching and training firm based in Montreal, Canada. He has degrees in chemical engineering from Canada's Royal Military College (BEng) and Montreal McGill University (MEng), a MBA from Ottawa University, workshop leadership training from Le Centre Quebecois de la PNL, and is a certified PMP. He has over 25 years experience managing major public and private projects. He teaches project risk management in the Schulich School of Business Master certificate in project management and the PMP certification revision class for PMI, Montreal He is one of the authors of the current PMI Standards for Portfolio Management. Claude can be reached at claude.emond@qualiscope.ca


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